Over the weekend, hundreds of
target="_blank">Final Fantasy XI players gathered
in Hollywood, Calif., to celebrate their favorite pastime at the href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/events/fanfestival08/"
target="_blank">FFXI Fan Festival 2008. While the
Ten Ton Hammer staff has reported on the event from a broad strokes
perspective, we have yet to really delve into the finer details of the
show. Luckily, I was given an opportunity to sit down with a group of style="font-style: italic;">Final Fantasy XI
developers and several of my game journalism peers to discuss some of
the finer details of the FFXI and what players can expect from any
forthcoming patches and expansions.
The press panel was made up of myself (Cody
“Micajah” Bye), Emily Balistrieri (The Escapist),
Patrick Gann (RPGFan), and Michael Vreeland (Gamasutra) while the
Square Enix team was represented by Yoji Fujito (Planner), Mitsutoshi
Gondai (Planner), Mizuki Ito (Planner), Akihiko Matsui (Battle
Director), Kouichi Ogawa (Director of Treasures of Aht Urhgan and Wings
of the Goddess), Sage Sundi (Global Online Producer) and
Hiromichi Tanaka (Producer). The entire interview with the Square Enix
team was translated by the North American studio’s
localization lead, the ever-entertaining Steven Reinhart.
These are definitely questions that are centered around FFXI players,
so if you feel overwhelmed by the depth of information, don’t
The gathering of developers that the press interviewed at the Fan Festival.
In regards to the three
new expansions, you talked about how there has always been lateral
content. The problem is, there are now so many different endgame
activities: like Sky, Sea, Salvage, Einherjar, etc. Now for newer
players it's harder for them to get some of the older endgame content
items because they're so busy doing the new stuff.
For example, now it's
fairly common to see people who have completed Chains of Promathia but
have not completed Rise of the Zilart. Because of that, there's a huge
divide in people trying to get old gear that's still very relevant for
newer characters, but the Linkshells are older don't want to go back
and do that content. So my question is, are there plans to create gear
that substitutes old things, like Byakko's Haidate, or improves on it,
so that there's not always this tension between the old and the new
content in terms of scheduling Linkshell activities?
One thing, as with the ZNM system, there's comparable gear you can get
from newer things. But old content is something we want people to play;
you know, we don't want to make something like Byakko's Haidate totally
obsolete by making an easy, new piece of gear to get so that nobody
will go fight Byakko, and get the triggers, and stop doing Sky, etc. We
want people to continue to play old content; we still make those items
So where does it stop? I
mean, right now the ability to do all of these things is barely holding
together. There's going to be new endgame content in the new expansions
that's going to compete with these existing events. I mean, there's
only so much time that people have to schedule these large-scale events.
You're not obligated to do it all. Nobody's saying you have to do all
of these to be "endgame." Nobody ever said you had to get all the gear.
You’ve got to pick your battles, do what you want to do,
figure out which gear you want and do that content.
Wings of the Goddess has
been out for about a year now, but you're still adding Aht Urhgan
content. Is Aht Urhgan done yet? How much longer will Aht Urhgan
continue, and when will see more Wings of the Goddess content? It seems
like we've seen more Aht Urhgan content than Wings of the Goddess.
Square Enix: There
will be more in the upcoming patch, but Aht Urhgan content is almost
complete. There's some more we want to add, but for the most part it's
finished. Soon you will see more Altana (Wings of the Goddess) content
in the future.
You talked about how Aht
Urhgan is still going, but when you talk about the main missions, the
main plots, you guys wrapped that up about two months before Wings of
the Goddess, back in August. Do you guys have a time frame for when
we're going to reach the end of the main storyline for Wings of the
There's going to be a peak in the plot with this upcoming December
patch. It's not the end, but this is where you can expect it to get
kind of juicy.
Some end game content has become almost impossible to complete if you're a new player.
Long term players are
having serious inventory problems. Is there any inventory relief
coming? If you look at the machines downstairs, where the Gobbie Bag
size is 80 (which we currently can't get), and now we have temporary
items that go up to 40, there's enough memory for up to 120 items at a
time. So will we be seeing our Mog Safe, or Mog Lockers, or storage
limits expanded to 120 anytime soon?
The way the system's set up, it's not as simple as saying
"well I can hold 80 permanent, 40 temporary, so total is 120 items I
can hold in inventory." It's not that simple. The way the system is set
up, 80 is the max you can have for items. If we were going to change
that, we'd have to go to the drawing board with the programmers and
talk about if it's possible to expand that.
This is something we hear from players a lot: constantly, incessantly!
It's always something we're looking into.
Mages in particular have
a profusion of elemental-specific items. Are there plans to have quests
that can combine elemental staves, and obis, and grips into "hey, this
does all of them!" You get all of them, and you combine them into one
all-purpose item. Not only do we get 21 inventory spaces back, but then
we'd save macro space as well.
It doesn't seem like
inventory space is stopping people from doing all this. But there's
also another thing, because of the number of items people want to
switch in and out of their gear conditionally, it means a lot of people
are using third-party utilities to have conditional macro slots because
of it. The game design is pushing people toward behavior the company
doesn't permit. So not only would this [suggestion] alleviate a lot of
inventory concerns, it would help with [third party macros] as well.
Square Enix: When
we design the items, we design them individually with their statistics.
We want them each to be hard to get. Each one requires an effort for
players to acquire them. But we agree, once players have all of them,
it might be something...
Yeah, the quest is to get
them all, and the reward is that you get seven inventory spaces back.
Square Enix: We
agree. It's definitely something we'll look into.
I have a question about
the Summoner. Summoner seems like a giant kluge. It’s a lot
of different kinds of systems that don't really fit together. It's like
a Katamari of systems. So, the interface doesn't really work that well,
and it's slow, and you lose mp if an enemy moves out of range out of a
Blood Pact. It just has all these little problems, and nobody wants to
invite them to parties. And also, like three years ago at the first Fan
Fest, we were told new Avatars would be coming, but we haven't seen any
new Avatars yet. So are there any plans for a major overhaul of the
Summoner class? Because it's such a classic Final Fantasy class, and
people really want to see it succeed, but it's been stuck in this place
for a very long time.
Square Enix: We
are definitely looking into fixing the things that can be fixed. But
something like the mp that's been used...once it's used, then the enemy
runs, giving the mp back would be something very difficult.
Well at the very least,
you use the MP, but you don't lose the Blood Pact charge's recast time?
Square Enix: It's
something we'll look into.
So when's that new Avatar
coming? We were promised it awhile ago.
Square Enix: Not
in the far future, it's something in the near future, something in the
works. It'll be sooner than later. We're afraid that if we get to next
year's Fan Festival, and we still don't have those Avatars, we're
worried what people will say, so maybe before then...
Player inventory size is a big issue in the fan community.
Right now there's been a
great proliferation since the release of Aht Urhgan of all these
different little currencies and points you need to do things. You know:
Campaign, Salvage, and there's two new ones coming in the next update
alone, and there's Therion Ichor from Einherjar. Is there a new way
coming other than that? And two, is there a way you could add to the
character profile menu a list of the values we have for these points so
we don't have to travel around to talk to NPCs and see how much we have?
Square Enix: The
information for individual players, with those points, that is all
saved server-side. So if you access it from the menu, it's definitely
possible, but there are issues of the menu becoming heavier and longer
to load. But we'll give it a try.
Are there any paradigms
coming, in relation to the first part of my question? Have you
considered a different model? It's similar to the endgame thing: how do
you get Nyzul tokens, and AP for Salvage? Too much is relying on these
The goals we have in mind for people to achieve when we create these
systems are all different, so that's why we keep the point systems
different. And if you're a hardcore player that feels you have to do
all of them...well, that's why you're a hardcore player. There's good
points and bad points, but you gotta take the punches. It's a big game.
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